Yemen charges radical U.S.-born cleric in absentia
Under U.S. pressure to do more to combat al-Qaeda, Yemen charged a U.S.-born radical Islamic cleric on Tuesday with "forming an armed group to carry out criminal acts targeting foreigners under the auspices" of the terrorist network.
Prosecutors said that Anwar al-Aulaqi, who is thought to be hiding in Yemen and is being tried in absentia, was "yesterday a regular visitor of bars and discotheques in America" and "today has become the catalyst" for violence in Yemen and abroad.
U.S. intelligence identifies Aulaqi as the intellectual author of attacks including the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, last year that left 13 dead, and the attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
U.S. pressure on Yemen has increased since those events and last week's thwarted plot to detonate bombs sent from Yemen aboard commercial cargo planes. In a telephone conversation Tuesday with Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh, President Obama discussed U.S. counter-terrorism assistance and the need for Yemen to strengthen cargo-transport security measures, a White House statement said. Saleh, it said, "made a full commitment to cooperate with the United States" and with investigations into the plot.
Meanwhile, Yemeni officials said it military had launched an operation in southern Yemen to track down alleged Saudi bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri, who U.S. intelligence believes built the Christmas Day and cargo bombs. Apparently in response, suspected al-Qaeda fighters blew up an oil pipeline in Yemen.